Not long ago, when Grant told me he had another baby on the way, I thought to myself, "that is very uninteresting." But then he proceeded to the part of the email that involved me and I agreed to help relieve some of his blogging burden by submitting a guest piece, which is what this is. However, this is being done pro bono, as the Europeans say, and I already have enough on my plate, and plus I'm already an Internet celebrity so it's not like I have to seize this opportunity to write for a big new audience. So while this is indeed a voluntary guest piece for McCovey Chronicles, I am unabashedly mailing it in, and now please join me as I chronicle the last 20 years or so of the Giants franchise off the top of my head because dammit I'm tired of doing research today.
The Giants formally came into existence somewhere in the early 1990s when I found a replica home jersey at Ross for ten dollars. Ross was great for this - though you could never predict what they'd have, they always had the odd replica jersey available for ten dollars, which is how I also came to own a Manitoba Moose jersey, and a reversible Larry Centers Arizona Cardinals jersey. But this is about the Giants, and not Ross's sweet sweet deals, at least at that particular location in San Diego, and that was the afternoon I started giving a shit about the Giants. I wanted to know about the team whose name I'd be wearing sometimes, or as it turned out almost not at all ever.
One of those years the Giants were pretty much the best team in baseball but somehow they didn't make the playoffs even though they won more than a hundred games. It was probably either 1992 or 1993, and I think those Giants had Barry Bonds, or, as he would be nicknamed over the course of the next decade, "The Giants." The Giants were great but not great enough and that would set the tone for the next while, when the Giants would continue to be not great enough. For a little while after being great they were not very good, but that was the Strike Era and for some reason I typed that as if it counts as a valid excuse. I'm pretty sure the Giants haven't won as many games in a season as they won in 1992 or 1993 when they missed the playoffs, but they've still made the playoffs a bunch since. Sometimes life isn't fair, and sometimes life changes the rules surrounding the MLB playoff structure.
Those early and mid-90s Giants featured a lot of Kirt Manwaring who was probably considered by some people to be the team's heart and soul. Matt Williams was a player on them who was good, and in the strike year his pursuit of Roger Maris' home-run record was interrupted, as if anyone would give a shit about that today. That year Williams was supposed to break the dinger record and the Expos were supposed to be something. I was nine. Another player who was good was Robby Thompson, and a player who wasn't so good was Darren Lewis. Bill Swift was probably all right and Rod Beck was a mean-looking closer who turned out to be a real softy. Somewhere around here came William VanLandingham, and he was known more for his name than for his pitching, a lot like Trystan Magnuson and Blake Hawksworth. The Giants were probably general managed by Brian Sabean because fuck if I know, and the whole idea was to let Barry Bonds play baseball, surrounded by a cast of whoevers. It did pretty good, to be honest.
The Giants played in Candlestick Park, which was much bigger than the name would imply. The stadium was interesting in that, while it was supposedly located in San Francisco, it was actually constructed on a distant ice planet accessible by imperceptible wormhole, and the ice planet's swirling winds were measured in megaknots. The ballpark was equipped with a fog horn that would blare or do whatever it is that fog horns do after Giants home runs, but no one could ever hear it over the sound of the wind shrieking through the corridors and desolate bleachers. Oftentimes trash would blow around on the field, and Marvin Benard would try to eat it, which Dusty Baker encouraged because the overeager pursuit was the only thing keeping Benard in what we can even identify as a shape. Based on personal memory, Candlestick Park handed out too many J.T. Snow growth posters and too few blankets or space heaters or fire pits with kindling. I forgot to note that J.T. Snow was on the Giants for a time, and he seemed very nice.
Frustration mounted as the Giants kept not winning the World Series. But they were consistently good, with Bonds hitting dingers and Jeff Kent providing unexpected production and Rich Aurilia flipping out once. Bill Mueller was on the Giants and he was a line-drive machine in between all of the outs that he made. On the mound, there was new blood like Russ Ortiz and Shawn Estes whose walk problems have been forgotten in order for people to blame Baker for ruining them with overuse. In one of the years around the turn of the millennium, Kirk Rueter struck a batter out. Rod Beck at some point yielded to Robb Nen as the Giants continued to employ a seven-letter closer. Robb Nen had a really good pitch but I forget what it was. It was probably a slider, and it was probably overrated.
I just remembered Chris Brock and Chad Zerbe(sp?). Anyway, in 2000, the Giants changed stadiums, to a nicer place named after a telephone company. Soon, though, it would be re-named after a telephone company, and then it would be re-named again, this time after a telephone company. My memory tells me the park was entirely privately-funded, but that would've been news before I gave a shit about ballpark economics, so I can't swear by it. In some way, I think the Giants did a neat thing for the city, in that they didn't punch the city in the windpipe and push it down the stairs. The park was on the water, and curiously it's in San Francisco by day and on the old familiar ice planet by night. People started making a habit of hanging out outside the stadium in boats, because as fun as it is to attend a live baseball game, it's more fun to float. Some of those people have dogs, some of those people go after baseballs, and some of those people have dogs that go after baseballs.
In 2002 the Giants were a very good team and they went all the way to the World Series even though they had Tsuyoshi Shinjo on them. They were even in position to win the World Series until they decided not to without consulting anyone else. Thanks to the Giants, Scott Spiezio got all big-headed, which was a net negative for the world, and Anaheim fans took on an air of self-importance and entitlement. It was the Giants who allowed the Angels to become baseball's most obnoxious team, and for that the Giants would be punished eventually. First they got to have a couple more good years and lose. I guess that could've been part of the karmic punishment. Barry Bonds set the all-time home-run record. I should put that somewhere. He also set the other all-time home-run record. Bonds' career ultimately ended when he was still one of the very greatest hitters in baseball, but now I'm getting way too far ahead of myself. The year before Bonds couldn't find a job, he made something like 50% outs, and therefore about 50% non-outs. This is where everyone decided to take a stand.
Lean years hit, after the extraordinary run of sustained success, which is usually the way it works. You could think of them as the Pedro Feliz years, or the Noah Lowry years. I was almost going to call them the Michael Tucker years but I can't remember for sure whether or not Tucker was ever actually a Giant. It just seems like he was, in that retread-y way. The Giants looked like an organization without direction, but then they made their statement by signing Barry Zito for seven years. The Giants were not good, and then they out-bid the Mariners to sign Zito for $126 million. A few years later they won the first of two world championships. Don't even pretend like this team has made any sense.
Young pitching was supposed to guide the Giants back to relevance - young pitching around the Zito obelisk - and the Giants snagged Tim Lincecum in the draft while also snagging Matt Cain somewhere else in probably a different draft. Lincecum blew up the Internet before the Internet was ready to be blown up by an uberprospect, and I'll never forget watching his MLB debut against whoever it was. I remember that Lincecum looked mostly good and I remember thinking there couldn't be a better fit for San Francisco, so I had the sense he could work as a regional superstar. Lincecum had success in ways that were obvious. Cain had success in ways that were more difficult to understand, but that's continued to this day and I'm going to skip over the part where statheads tried to figure Cain out and couldn't. I should note that the Giants also gave Aaron Rowand a lot of money. Bad team, plus Zito, plus Rowand, then championship. It's easy to explain how it all came together for the Giants, so long as you ignore the several elephants in the room.
The Giants started featuring more of a fat version of Vladimir Guerrero who was still good somehow despite every reason to assume otherwise and around a couple more young building blocks, the foundation for the 2010 title run was set. Madison Bumgarner showed up to pitch and Buster Posey showed up to catch and hit, and around the good young players the Giants added pretty bad older players who all collectively overachieved. Those Giants only slipped into the playoffs because the what-the-actual-fuck Padres came undone at the end, and in the playoffs Cody Ross hit all the hits while Brian Wilson threw all the pitches except for the pitches that Lincecum threw. Also the Giants didn't actually want to add Ross during the season and only ended up with him by mistake. Without that mistake maybe the Giants don't win it all, eliminating the Rangers. The Giants championship provided reason for hope to everybody.
I don't remember what happened in 2011 but the Giants didn't win it all and Posey got obliterated by some idiot and I guess that says enough. Was that the year Ryan Vogelsong emerged as a complete and utter miracle? Vogelsong was bad, then bad and older, then bad and older, then good in the major leagues for no reason. In 2012 the Giants won the championship again because why wouldn't the Barry Zito Era deserve a couple of championships? This time it made a little more sense, except that Lincecum was bad and Hunter Pence was acquired and he was bad and Melky Cabrera was really awesome up until he got suspended for taking the wrong drugs. If memory serves, these Giants actually had a slightly below-average pitching staff, destroying the narrative that the Giants rode their arms to a title, but there was Marco Scutaro who batted approximately something greater than 1.000. Zito pitched in the playoffs and he didn't allow runs and he beat Justin Verlander in the World Series because fuck you, science.
In the first round the Giants fell behind two games to zero. In the second round the Giants fell behind three games to one. In the World Series, Barry Zito beat Justin Verlander, and the Giants swept the Tigers in four. The playoffs featured a comical Buster Posey grand slam off of Mat Latos in Cincinnati, and Posey watched it sail, and Latos was upset, and you don't know how good baseball has been to you. Look at how good baseball has been to you, Giants fans. You have all of these memories and all of this successful nonsense. Baseball keeps us humble by reminding us every single day that we're stupid and stupidly over-confident in ourselves. But baseball doesn't keep you humble. I feel like baseball has Giants fans feeling rather bulletproof.
In 2013 Lincecum still can't pitch and now Cain can't pitch and Vogelsong can't pitch and the Giants are alone in first place. On Wednesday, they blew a save in the ninth and then walked off in the tenth. Barry Zito kept his ERA under 3. Fucking whatever.